You’re Allowed Fifteen Minutes

By Emma Pearson

May 25, 2024

Image by Avesun

21 November 2021

About six weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I woke up crying and sobbing. I was having a beautiful and stunningly hard dream.

It happens. Quite a lot.

Whenever I dream of Julia.

I dream of Julia much more often than I dream of Mike. Always have done. I don’t seem to dream of Mike much, and when I do, we are just living a normal, beautiful life. Sometimes we are in our 20s, sometimes our 30s, sometimes our 40s, sometimes our 50s. He’s healthy and happy. Being Mike-like. Doing Mike-type things. And I am the old Emma. The Emma that was. Happy. Healthy. Content. Fulfilled. Grateful.

But Julia dreams – they are hard. Whether she is a babe in the dreams, or 15, I know, within the dream, that she is dead. And I wake up. Sometimes crying. Physically hurting. Always heart pounding. I don’t go back to sleep.  

In this dream, on 10th October, I was driving into a field car park. Scenery felt like rural England. A kind of Orienteering event parking field. Bumpity bump, gently downhill in this field, following marshals’ instructions as to where to park. For what reason was I there, I have no idea. But I was on my own and felt anticipatory pleasure for something.

Fresh and frosty and bright. Frost glinting in the sun. Weird details, like seeing a man throw a “huge, heavy rock” to his daughter, seeing it land dangerously close to me and my car, and me reprimanding him – “you shouldn’t have done that – that’s dangerous for your daughter, and it nearly hit me”, and him retorting back, “yeah – well it didn’t hit you, did it?” (Where do these people come from in dreams? This aggression that I don’t come across much in my daily life? But that’s not the point of this tale).

Out of my car now, with my camera, looking up behind me and seeing various friends, cobbled from many times in my life, going up a chair lift with skis… seeing grass underneath where my feet were, but them all happy on the chair lift, all ready to ski.  Bryony was among them. She is someone I have been skiing with, on and off, for more than 3 decades. Made total sense that she was there. She waved back to me. I could do something cool with my camera… I could photo-shop out bits of the scene, like the chair itself, so it looked like they were floating up in the air, in seated position. It made me laugh with the absurdity of it all.

Then I turned around again, just enjoying the freshness. Anticipating a lovely day. And I saw Julia and her childhood bestie Malou, dancing and spinning in the frosty sunlight. Covered in snow and frost. Twirling, swirling, whirling in the frosty brilliance. Sunlight lighting them both up. Laughing as only the two of them could. Rejoicing in being alive, being friends, movement, dance.

I started to film them. Then advised myself to stop filming and just watch them. Enjoy the scene. The joyous spectacle. This dance of life and vitality.

And then I started to cry. And cry and cry. In my dream I started to cry. I knew it was just a dream. That already in my dream I knew I was watching memories of my dead daughter and her best friend, dancing.

I fell to my knees. Howling.

The exquisite beauty and the crushing pain.

The realisation that she was dead, and somehow understanding that this was what I was now allowed of her. That I was allowed to have her back, watch her, revel in her, for fifteen minutes.

A year.

The howling and crying.

The pain.

Knowing that she was actually dead, and this is all I get now.

So vivid.

So alive.

So real.

So Julia.

So painful.

And I woke up with that.

Just one dream of many.

Waking me up so violently.

But I’d take 15 minutes a year.

Any day.

About Emma Pearson

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